2023 Chair Hagan Passes the Gavel to Williams
The Greater Vidalia Chamber’s 2023 Chair Mike Hagan officially passed the gavel and leadership to incoming Chair Stephanie Williams at the Chamber’s annual meeting on Friday, February 2.
Before formally relinquishing his role, Hagan reflected on his experience throughout the past year. “The Chamber has been a labor of love for me since joining the Board in 2019. In 2023, there was another record-setting year with the Chamber reaching new highs in all the measures of success we like to attract, including membership, event attendance, sponsorship, and profitability. We also broke ground on the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, which I’m very excited about, and we also completed an important housing study in collaboration with the Toombs County Development Authority and our cities. I’m so thankful for all of that great work that was done this year.”
Hagan then turned to Williams to encourage her in her new role. “Stephanie, I am really thankful for you taking over for 2024,” he emphasized. “I am really excited for you because you have a great board, and a great team. You have some great momentum, but your creativity and entrepreneurial spirit will make all the difference in the world.”
Williams shared similar sentiments toward the former Chair. “When I was first approached about serving as the Chair of the Chamber, I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll do that!’ My personal goal is to see all areas of the Chamber’s umbrella working together because I do believe that a unified community is a strong community. I was very excited about the direction in which the Chamber was moving, so I was happy to be a part of this,” she began.
Yet, a few weeks after accepting the position, Williams said she became nervous about the venture, as she learned from Hagan and wondered how she would fill his shoes. “I’ve been honored to serve with Mike for the past two years, and I can honestly say he’s one of the kindest people that I’ve ever met. I appreciate his wisdom, and his dedication to his family, his faith, and his work,” she shared. “I also appreciate his passion to make this community exceptional. He is a really strong leader and is very thoughtful. He’s a thinker and thinks things through. He is very levelheaded, he’s consistent, and he has integrity. Most of all, he has a joyful disposition.”
She told stories of Hagan bringing joy to 8 a.m. meetings, a skill which Williams told the audience she was still working to gain. “Mike, I’ll miss your leadership in the boardroom. I’m very glad you will be using your leadership abilities on the Public Policy Council, and that we will be working together for that. I appreciate your friendship and all that you’ve done for this board,” she remarked.
Williams also spoke of the goals of the Chamber, which she stated is to help businesses in the area thrive. “Now, I didn’t say survive or just get by, I said thrive, and part of what thriving means is just putting roots down in the beginning and then getting the tools that you need to help your business go forward into the future,” she remarked. Williams informed the audience that this mission is completed through numerous education programs, networking opportunities, a suite of business tools, and more.
Also during the meeting, Garrett and Blythe Wilcox were honored by 2022 Greater Vidalia Chamber Chairman John Koon as winners of the Chair Award, which celebrates outstanding community service and leadership aligning with the Chamber values.
The couple received the award in honor of their dedication to the Greater Vidalia Leadership program for the past seven years. Koon noted, “Leadership Toombs [now known as Greater Vidalia Leadership] has been going on for 30 years now. When you start talking about Greater Vidalia Leadership, you are talking about hundreds of people that have come through this program to make themselves better and also the community better. When you start moving in the direction of Greater Vidalia Leadership, it is an amazing, amazing journey to go on, because you meet so many different people and learn so many different things that you didn’t know about this area.”
Koon explained. “It takes leaders to be able to do that, and for seven years, these two people have led the Greater Vidalia Leadership Program. Half of this couple is beautiful, loving, calm, dedicated, and absolutely loves life. The other half is a unique dynamic, a mix of hyper-ness, energy, and dedication. He (Garrett) would do anything in the world for you, and does not want one ounce of recognition.”
Koon then turned specifically to Blythe to share a heartwarming message. “Your daddy would be proud,” he emphasized. “Chip Matheson was one of the greatest leaders this community has ever seen, and his daughter has fallen right in behind him and has done a great job. I am so honored and so privileged to be able to present this award.”
Hagan also spoke during the presentation, as he told the crowd, “The recipients of this year’s Chair Award are leaders in our community, of course, but I’ve really admired them for a long time. In fact, ever since I moved back to Georgia and started getting involved in this community, they (the Wilcoxes) were some of the first people I met. I’ve been impressed by them, and I’ve just loved being friends with them and working alongside them for years now.”
Three outgoing members of the Chamber board were also recognized for their service to the organization, as Ivette Torres, Mary Edmonds, and Pat Dixon received awards commemorating the event.